By PATRICK WHITTLE
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — American fishermen are losing thousands of pounds of valuable fishing quota under a new catch share agreement with Canada.
Fishermen from the U.S. and Canada seek haddock, cod and flounder on Georges Bank, which is a critical fishing ground east of New England, The two countries craft a catch share agreement every year. Under the latest agreement, the U.S.’s eastern Georges Bank cod quota is falling by more than 25 percent to about 415,000 pounds and the eastern Georges Bank haddock quota is falling by about 4 percent to about 33 million pounds.
Yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank is also falling by about half, to about 230,000 pounds. The U.S. gets 76 percent of the flounder quota while Canada gets 71 percent of the cod quota and the haddock is divided evenly.
The loss in quota will present a hardship for New England fishermen, who are already coping with low cod quotas and the collapse of the cod stock, said Terry Alexander, a longtime Maine fisherman and member of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council that approved the catch share agreement last week.
“It’s going to be tough to get by with for sure,” Alexander said. “Cod seems to be in the cellar and yellowtail is even deeper in the cellar.”
The proposed quotas are based on historical catches and trawl surveys. Canada’s quotas are also proposed to decline. The quotas were recommended by U.S./Canada Transboundary Management Guidance Committee, which is a panel made up of government and industry members that includes representatives from both countries.
Cod, haddock and flounder are all popular fish that appear on menus and in fish markets in both countries. Most of the cod that Americans buy is already from foreign sources, so it will continue to be in abundance to consumers despite the quota cut. Haddock and flounder will also remain easy for consumers to find despite the quota cuts.
While cod and yellowtail are in decline, the decision to cut the haddock quota was “a precautionary approach,” as the stock is still fairly healthy, said Janice Plante, a spokeswoman for the New England Fishery Management Council.
The new quotas, which would apply to the 2019 fishing year that begins on May 1, face more approvals from the federal Department of Commerce.